Chris Griffin, CEO at UK startup Anatwine, is thinking big. He aims to build a platform which will connect the best brands and retailers in the world into one “hub and spoke system which would create the most powerful retail tool on the planet.”

So what does the relatively unknown startup from rural Cheltenham do? "The easiest way for me to describe that is basically the why and how," says Griffin. "I come from a fashion retail background and recognised both when I was in the industry and starting Anatwine that there were huge inefficiencies in the historic wholesale buy-in-advance model in fashion."

© Anatwine
© Anatwine

Traditionally major brands like Superdry, Adidas and Nike sell stock to major online retailers like Zalando and ASOS according to linesheets put together by the brand. In the online world the complexity of the different systems being used by the major players means that there can be a lack of consistency for the customer, from product images and descriptions, to returns policies and delivery.

How does Anatwine work?

This is where Anatwine comes in. The startup will send in solution consultants to do a top line analysis of the business and integrate their core systems into the Anatwine platform, so: pricing, inventory, orders and product content, all as close to real time as possible.

The company's CTO Robert Sindall explained to "So rather than providing a thick API documentation to bend your systems to our requirements, we will build a bespoke integration."

"The two key complexities are building custom integrations and the complexity of fashion product data. So one of the barriers is the depth and range of product information retailers want and the various ways they describe products. We have a lot of clever technology that helps us transform the brand's data into our master canonical models."

Anatwine then standardises this product data and the retailers requirements in the platform to ensure a consistent customer experience from both sides.

"So for example: does it ship within two to four days? We document that it has to be tracked, and even which specific carrier or packaging requirements, the order ID, customer number, logos. We document all of these requirements around what a brand must do to mimic the retailer, so that is the seamless experience," says Sindall.

The broken wholesale model

Griffin prefers to talk in case studies, and one he keeps returning to is between his ex-employer Superdry and the lead investor in Anatwine, who also happens to be one of the biggest retailers in Europe, Zalando.

“Take Superdry and Zalando. What would happen is the retailer would go to the brand and look at the range and nine months in advance they would use historic data to work out what to buy for the future and how much. In any other language: they would guess it. Yes they are guessing using data, but in advance work out what they thought would be the best sellers and drive their business going forward.”

A buyer at a retailer, like Zalando, or in the offline world a department store like Selfridges or House of Fraser, would hope that when they select items from a retailer’s range they are choosing the bestselling items. However, Anatwine says that generally they will get it right 20 percent of the time.

Griffin says that getting it right when you are “buying months in advanced, using historic data, it’s mathematically impossible.”

Their solution is to connect brands and retailers’ supply chain systems so that retailers can see real time selling data to ensure they are pushing the best selling items, rather than guessing ahead of time.

So the Anatwine approach is essentially based on two principles: “If we can guarantee a consistent customer experience, and provide live data to only take the best stock when possible, this reduces warehouse capacity and allows [retailers] to give a fuller range to customers."

Mutual benefit

Griffin says he already has 40 of the top 100 retailers globally signed up “and the other 60 in my pipeline […] Within two years we will connect the top 100 retailers to the top 100 brands.”

The benefit is mutual for the brands and the retailers according to Griffin, and will only improve as more join the platform. “Retailers get increasingly accurate inventory and brands sell more stock on the right retailers.”

Anatwine then takes its cut on any incremental sales made on the platform.

Anatwine secured $12 million in funding in June, including a minority shareholding from Zalando itself.